Nov. 20, 2013
I have doctors. Lots of them.
I should really say "health care professionals," because not everyone who is helping me deal with this is an M.D. All of them, however, are what I've decided to call "Team Stan."
So far Team Stan includes my regular -- or pre-cancer -- starters:
4. Personal trainer
To this I've added, or had to add, a number of new players:
7. Medical oncologist
8. Dermatologic oncologist
9. Radiation oncologist
10. Dental oncologist
11. Radiation oncology resident
12. The radiation technicians who administer the radiation
14. Speech therapist
16. Massage therapist.
I'll see several members of Team Stan every day during The Process. Others, especially the oncologists, will be a regular part of my life for years to come as I continue to monitor the disease and, if it recurs again, catch it as early as possible. The plan right now is to begin every-six-weeks follow-ups a month and a half after the radiation treatment ends.
This past week was a good example of the team at work.
I met with the dental oncologist to make sure the radiation guards he made fit properly. They're needed because I have two gold crowns and the rest of my mouth has to be protected from what happens when radiation reflects off them.
I met with the speech therapist because the radiation may affect my ability to talk and swallow. She gave me exercises to minimize that effect.
This will be important for two reasons. First, I make by living by communicating and my ability to talk to clients, do interviews on television and radio and make speeches -- all of which are part of my regular schedule -- will all be affected if I can't talk. Second, I'm going to need to keep my weight up during the treatment, and eating will be hard if swallowing is painful.
Maintaining my weight was the primary topic of conversation with the dietician. I wouldn't mind losing five to seven pounds during The Process (and, really, who wouldn't?). But the whole team is worried about me not getting proper nutrition because eating is too painful because that will make it harder for my body to deal with the trauma from the radiation.
I also met with the radiation techs for the first time to make the mask that will hold my head in place during the treatments, to tattoo a small blue mark on my chest so the radiation is always delivered to the right place and to make me comfortable with how each treatment will go. It's called "the simulation" because it's similar to what I'll be going through when radiation treatments actually begin in a few days.
I also had a session with my massage therapist, who worked on my neck, shoulders and back to deal with the effects of the surgery from almost six weeks ago.
And I worked out a new schedule with my personal trainer. We will now meet at the gym at 6 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for a 45-minute workout. This will allow me to park on the street in front of the gym and not walk the three blocks from my office in December and January. That will limit exposing my radiated neck to the cold and other elements of winter, which is what I was advised to do.
Not walking back and forth to the gym will also help me deal with the fatigue I've repeatedly been told will be another side effect of the treatment. Working out at this time means it will be the first thing I'll do after a (hopefully) good night's sleep. Not having to walk to and from my office means that six blocks of physical energy will be saved. Plus, not having to deal with the cold during the walk means that my body won't have to work as hard to stay warm.
Yes, this means I'll have to get to bed early the night before and that (1) I won't see much prime time television and (2) my Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) will be the one who has to walk our dog before bed. But that's why god created VCRs and The BTW has already volunteered to take over my last-walk-of-the-day duties with Gracie.
What I do during the workout will depend on my energy level on any given day. I got the dietician to admit that she cares more about me maintaining lean muscle mass than total pounds so training, especially weight-bearing exercises, will be important. If the fatigue level is high I will reduce the intensity of the workouts and some days may only stretch, but it will be good for me physically and mentally to keep coming to the gym so that's what I'll do unless my body tells me otherwise.
I'll get back to my car before I have to start feeding the meters at 7 a.m. and drive directly to the hospital. That will take about 15 minutes so I'll be able to get something to eat before the treatment begins at 8:15 a.m. I should be back in the car and driving to my office by 8:45 a.m. and be at my desk close to 9 a.m.
The only exceptions will be on Mondays, when I'll be meeting with the radiation oncologist's resident after treatment to review my progress, and on Wednesdays, when I meet with the oncologist himself.
This is a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. "The Process" Stan is describing began last August.